UBS loses appeal over €1.1bn ‘security’ in European Court of Human Rights

Swiss banking group UBS has lost a case it took to the European Court of Human Rights in which it argued that its treatment by France’s legal system, which required it to provide the French court with a €1.1bn “security” in a case in which it was under investigation for allegedly aiding clients avoid tax, meant that its right to be presumed innocent had been violated. 

The bond had been ordered paid by UBS by French courts in 2014, with the idea that it might ultimately be used to pay any fines and restitution that might be demanded of the bank later on, if the court ultimately ruled against the banking group in the matter.

In a statement outlining the results of the decision last week, the ECHR said that it had found that the requirement that the bank post the security, “to ensure the presence of the person under investigation for all the steps of the proceedings and for the execution of the judgment…did not not pre-judge the outcome of the proceedings”.

A UBS spokesman said: “We value the fact that the court accepted this case for consideration. This already shows the unprecedented nature in which the French judicial authorities approached this matter.

“We will continue to strive for a solution to the proceedings in France while strongly defending our position. The facts do not support the magnitude of the bail, and we have a fiduciary responsibility to protect both the financial and reputational interests of our stakeholders.

We regret the court’s decision, and disagree with its reasoning.”

UBS’s application had been made to the European Court of Human Rights in June, 2015.

Brad Birkenfeld, a former employee of UBS’s Swiss operations who blew the whistle on the way it helped Americans to evade their US tax obligations and thus enabled the US government to prosecute the bank, was involved in helping the French authorities with their investigation. As reported,  Birkenfeld has written a book about his experiences as a whistleblower, which was published at the end of last year.

To read the judgment in the UBS case on the website of the ECHR, click here.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Helen Burggraf
Helen Burggraf is the editor of International Investment. A US-trained journalist, she has worked in Rome, New York City and London, covering everything from the fashion and retailing industries to the global drinking water and water-treatment sector, private equity, and most recently, the international cross-border financial services/advice industry.

Read more from Helen Burggraf

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